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The Comic Process

For the last two months now I’ve been working in my spare time to crank out a new issue of “Lost Bread”, a comic series for The Grimerica Show that chronicles my lucid dreams. It drives me nuts, sitting here, etching each tiny little line on my tablet. Don’t get me wrong, I love to draw (otherwise I wouldn’t bother.) It’s just that, dreams are so instantaneous, and making a comic is…well not. I have so many dreams in my journal waiting to be shared, but the process of transcribing them for eyes other than my own is laborious. However, I feel its crucially important to spend whatever time necessary for each and every image drawn to match what I saw in my head (otherwise, what’s the point?)

Since it looks like there’s still going to be a bit of a wait on this one, I thought I’d show you the process I go through in creating a panel for “Lost Bread”. I normally jot or rather tap my dreams down into iphone notes first. My trusty phone is always there waiting for me on my nightstand. I do this the moment I wake up, be it the middle of the night, early morning or an afternoon nap, so that I can still remember everything clearly. Then, I create a script, in a program called Celtx (free online) You could just as easily write it up in Word, but Celtx lets you divide your script up into panels, pages, captions and characters just by using a series of hotkeys. It makes trying to block out a comic a little bit easier. In addition to comics, it has settings for screenplays, stage plays and audio, all of which have their own specific format.

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This blog is going to follow the process used for the panel scripted as #12, but in the final layout, it wound up becoming #13. I go through several layouts before I’m happy with the end product. The first in the series is my “slop” layout. Here I’m just getting a very basic idea of how I want things to be positioned in the panel. I do some chicken scratch to represent the text, and make sure I won’t be crowding out any of my characters with rogue speech bubbles.

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After I do this, I normally sketch out the focal characters in the scene, conveying their body language and emotion. Here, my brother, Marco, and I have a spirited argument, as we often do.

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Yes, words to live by! The characters in this are actually reversed from their proper placement in the scene. I do that a lot. A little backstory here: I struggle mightily with spatial relations, to the degree that I have to actively think about which is my left and which is my right. Funnily enough, its never affected my reading, so I can’t claim dyslexia, just temporal confusion.

Knowing this about myself, I’ve found little ways to work around my handicap. For example, I used to work on ships, (I’ll tell you about it sometime.) For whatever reason, starboard and port click for me, where as right and left don’t. When I’m driving, my friends will call out directions as starboard and port, instead of right and left, so I don’t miss a turn. That doesn’t help so much in drawing, but you know what does…

Mapping out my scenes physically, so I have a reference.

 

Here I’ve mapped out the upper edge of the Campanile di San Marco using my art table, and created mock ups for the characters in clay. The bend in the clay shows me wind direction, which I’ll reference when drawing hair and clothes. My character (Nap) has a purple tip, (front left, er port, wait does a table have a port side?) The others all have their own unique markers to help me determine who goes where. This shot is just for place reference.

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Then I take another shot, with my iphone, from the angle I’ll be drawing.

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Now I can create my panel.

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Here are the characters in their correct placement.The pink colour is set on a layer below the line art, and will eventually be replaced with the final colouring. I’m not going to show you the final colouring here, because I want you to actually read the comic, and I’d hate to spoil the surprise. The pink just helps me differentiate these characters from the eventual background.

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I add in the floor tiles, to help give me a sense of space, and the box which will bound this panel.

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I use GoogleEarth to get an idea of what the view would be like from the corner of the Campanile my scene takes place on.

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And background is go! Now let’s add in some of those crazy balloons! If you’re following the series, you’ll know what I’m talking about, if not check this madness out! (by which I mean, click this link.)

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Again, I have these balloons set in a pastel green just to differentiate from the main background and the characters in the foreground. Now I’ll add in some more balloons in the distance, to create a sense of depth.

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And that panel’s pretty much where I want it to be for the now. It needs a little clean up (the largest balloon is breaching the panel’s bounding box) but as far as just getting the line art down, we’re good! Hope you enjoyed this little look behind the scenes, or were at least amused by the pictures. If not, sorry I guess. Either way, I’ve got to get back to comicing!

-N

 

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